Research: Cannabidiol Helps Ease Epileptic Seizures

Research: Cannabidiol Helps Ease Epileptic Seizures

We explain and help understand the key cannabis compound 'Cannabidiol' - that helped to reduce the number of drop seizures in patients with a severe form of epilepsy. Reports of cannabis’s capabilities to ease seizures have been with us many years now but studies on its impact have increased significantly in the last few years.

A new study has shown that Cannabidiol, a compound extracted from cannabis, can help ease epileptic seizures. This is a rare breakthrough in a field filled with more hope than reality – in which backers try to have cannabis and compounds sourced from the herb officially recognised for free use.

The 14-week study results, published in The Lancet[1], shows that cannabidiol along with other epilepsy treatments lessened drop seizures in people affected by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is a serious, permanent type of epilepsy characterized by cognitive impairment and frequent seizures. According to researchers, the condition is responsible for around 1-4% of early epilepsy cases. Drop seizures are characterized by unexpected falls resulting from low muscle tone. 

Although there are many pharmacological and no-pharmacological treatments available, such as nerve stimulation, ketogenic diet and brain surgery, such treatments are effective in treating just 10 percent of patients. 

While the trial lessened the frequency of epileptic seizures, the long-term efficiency and safety of cannabidiol, along with its interaction with other drugs should now be considered. 

In this study, the participants included 171 patients aged between two and 55 years from the United States, Poland and Netherlands, who suffered from different forms of seizures. 

Prior to the start of the clinical trial, all participants were said to be highly treatment-resistant and did not respond to various anti-epilepsy treatments, according to the researchers. 

86 participants took a regular dose of the compound while eighty-five took a placebo as well as their regular epilepsy drugs. During the study period, patients or caregivers reported the types and number of seizures they experienced every day, along with drug use and related events. 

At the end of the 14-week trial, patients in the cannabidiol category experienced a 42.9% reduction in drop seizures (1.04 per day), compared to an average of 2.4 seizures per day before the trial. Those who were given the placebo experienced a 21.8% decrease in epileptic seizures. 

Participants who were given the cannabidiol also experienced fewer forms of other seizures, as their monthly rate of all types of seizures reduced by around 41.2% while those in the placebo category saw a 13.7% average reduction. 

Dr Elizabeth Thiele, the lead author of the study, said that she and her co-researchers were happy with the findings of the study, which has hopefully found another option to add to the existing treatments for epileptic seizures. 

In a press release, Dr Thiele noted that a pharmaceutical formulation was used in the 14-day trial was instead of medical cannabis.

62% of those in the cannabidiol group reported side effects, with the most common ones being fever, lightheadedness, diarrhoea, vomiting and poor appetite. On the other hand, there were serious side effects experienced by 20 participants in the cannabidiol category. Some of the most common ones included an increase in certain liver enzymes, which the research team said would not have any permanent damage in most of the affected participants.

[1] The Lancet, article: Cannabidiol in patients with seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (GWPCARE4): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial;